Shiya Goshima is no ordinary Japanese restauranteur. While many a Japanese master serves you their creation, stoically steps back and allows their craft to speak for itself, Goshi-san (as he’s more affectionately known) is passionate, animated and talks about sake with a twinkle in his eye.
His former restaurant, also named Godenya, used to be one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets. Located in the northeastern suburb of Sumida, you could easily walk past the six-seat eatery without batting an eye at the low-key exterior. Regardless, patrons from all over Japan made the trek to the nondescript diner to sample its sensational sake and food pairings.
Despite the acclaim, Goshi-san’s ambition is bigger than Japan. He closed Godenya in Tokyo and later decamped to Hong Kong, reopening the restaurant on Kau U Fong. You’d think it impossible to replicate the covert location the original enjoyed in Japan, but Goshi-san eventually found just the spot. Though the official address places it on Wellington Street, the entrance is actually down a grungy alley. Even once you’re in the alley, it’s not an obvious spot – a rusted sliding door set inside bare concrete walls turns out to be the unmarked entrance.
The six-seat establishment only serves a single-set menu with a fixed sake pairing. Each course is labelled with the accompanying sake’s name, grade, and the right temperature to serve. And as if on cue, Goshi-san begins tasting and measuring the temperature of the rice wine with a thermometer. Did we mention Godenya is all about sake? Don’t come here expecting any soft beverage other than water, and don’t even think about trying the meal without the alcohol pairing – you might as well listen to your favourite album with the volume off.
According to Goshi-san, his dream is to showcase what sake has to offer to the world, and Hong Kong was his first stop. Judging by what we sampled on our visit, he’s certainly got what it takes to elevate the appreciation of rice wine to a whole new level. Expect an evening where delectable food takes a backseat to demonstrate the incredible versatility of sake, and that’s what Goshi-san is all about.